Tag Archive | Cancer

Thinking Out Loud

“Why does God make it cold?”

My boys and I have had a lot of talks about God lately. My eldest, Easton, started Religious Formation this fall, (formerly known as CCD for my 30-something Catholic friends..), and so God comes up a lot, either by me referencing Him or by them asking. We’ve discussed how God makes it rain to give the plants and animals a drink. The other night, Easton told his brother it was dark because God painted the sky black. When the temps dipped 40+ degrees in 4 days, it was only natural Evan would question why God would make it feel so chilly outside.

“So we appreciate when it’s beautiful outside,” I replied. “If it was nice and warm and sunny everyday, we would get used to it after awhile and it wouldn’t feel as nice.”

My husband and I had just had a similar conversation not a week beforehand.. spending a few days on the glorious beaches of Destin, Florida. Everyday, we saw the ‘chair protector’ move into position right in front of our condo. From 9-5, he sat in the sun and made sure people didn’t use the fancy chairs unless they paid to rent them. Brian commented, “after awhile, you wouldn’t even appreciate the beach. You’d be so used to it, just sitting there all day every day.”

But how could you not appreciate this?

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The constant, soothing roar of the waves coming in. The intoxicating aura of peace and happiness. Watching toddlers confusedly wobble on the sand, already trying to tackle walking without this new, strange squishiness under their toes. Seeing older couples, hand in hand, walking slowly past.. and wondering how many years they had been walking together just like that. No hurry. No to-do lists. Brian and I walked around in a daze for the weekend, grinning nonstop and almost drunk on life itself. Even Sunday night, when a thunderstorm blew through, it was beautiful and exciting. I was legitimately depressed when it was time to leave, almost tearful.

I knew why, too. Because all too easily, all too often, I let all of the other noise drown the good out. I am addicted to my phone. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising when my boys argue. I have probably 3 notepads with duplicating lists of things I need to do, would like to do, hope to do, should do. I think about bills, about projects, about people, about what people think.

Why.

Teri Donoho

Last month, Westside Community Schools lost a teacher who devoted herself to education and to the teenagers she worked with. Teri Donoho’s husband, Jay, told me about how hard the love of his life fought to beat cancer.. and they thought she had. The night before she was supposed to leave the hospital, Jay went home for the evening to take care of their dogs. She called him to say good night, I love you.. and she died a few hours later.

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Photo courtesy Kamie Stephen Photography

Over the weekend, we got news that one of the young women who competed for Miss Nebraska last year, Kaelia Nelson, died. I remember thinking two things when I met Kaelia: “dang! She’s TINY!” (Kaelia, a stunning woman, was MAYBE 5 feet tall), then later ‘wow.. this girl is the real deal.’ Poised, so striking, an amazing dancer, and CONFIDENT. Kaelia had several tattoos, and proudly showed them during Miss Nebraska week.. they were a part of her, and not something to hide. We need MORE strong, vibrant, positive leaders in our world today.. and losing ONE is a terrible tragedy. My heart is broken, especially when I think of Kaelia’s parents. They have been in my prayers for days.

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This weekend, we should be celebrating Cody’s birthday. We always did – his birthday and my husband Brian’s were within a few days of each other. A big party at Jack’s, a dinner with friends at Kobe, and moments we’ll never forget at the bar later on. One year, another wife and I were badmouthing one of the guys’ girlfriends. Cody, after a few moments of listening, looked at us and said ‘ya’ll are being bitches.’ …. Yup, he was right. I don’t know anything about that couple or their relationship.. I was being a bitch. And what I love about that memory is that it was classic Cody. He was CODY ‘WARDO’ WARDEN’.. and didn’t give a damn if you liked him or not. He was a big, loud, hugging, teddy bear of a man.. and if you were his friend, you never had to question if you had someone on your side.. because he was TRUE, honest and real. Cody beat all the odds, defeating brain cancer when first diagnosed several years ago. Exactly one year ago this month, the tumors came back. We celebrated Cody’s birthday at Jack’s again, knowing he had a tough road ahead. We lost him this summer.

Why? Why does this happen? What is the meaning of all of this? Why. Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.

Because if we lived everyday at the ocean, we would take it for granted. Because God makes it cold, so the sun and warmth feel even better on those perfect days. That’s the easy answer.. easy for all of us feeling grief and sadness indirectly. But for Jay Donoho, for Shardel Nelson, for Darbi Warden… it’s not enough. It doesn’t explain WHY them. Why did Teri and Cody get cancer – twice? Why won’t Kaelia be here to get married and have babies, to live a long, happy life? I don’t have the reasons. I don’t have any poetic, rationalizing theory WHY. For Jay, for Shardel, for Darbi… I am so, so sorry. I literally cannot imagine being in your place because it emotionally breaks me down to even think about it. I don’t know how I would continue through each day, each SECOND, if I lost my family. I pray that peace and strength surround you and help you every second of this terrible journey. Your loved ones MATTERED, they HAD PURPOSE. They were so very loved, and they each made this world a better place. Teri, Kaelia, Cody… their legacies will continue through their time here, and through their loved ones still here.

I tell myself that I will go home, and hug my amazing husband a few seconds longer. I will say a prayer of thanks I have a loyal, selfless, devoted partner in my life, a guy who still dips me back to kiss me on the beach, 12 years after our first date.

I tell myself I will watch my boys.. REALLY watch them and try to lock every moment into my memory, instead of looking at my phone. Their smiles. Their laughs. The things Evan says, and how they still want to snuggle and play. When they fight, I will close my eyes and thank God I have healthy, happy, smart boys who can talk, move, think for themselves, and yes, even argue with each other like brothers.

Still, I forget… I listen to all of the noise, I focus on the crap that’s not important, I let the less than perfect overshadow all of the good. How do I not appreciate what I have EVERY, SINGLE DAY??? How do I forget that my ocean IS my home.. and the second I walk into that door, nothing else should matter??? Please, God, let me remember this EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. that I have here.

Today, it’s dark and gloomy outside. It’s so very cold. The ocean seems far away right now. But I know I will see it again soon. I pray everyone else does, too.

***

For Teri Donoho

Please consider a donation to Crossroads Clinic or to the American Cancer Society

For Kaelia Nelson

Please consider a donation to a mental health awareness organization, to the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program in Kaelia’s memory, or to the Peru State Dance team, of which she was a proud member.

For our dear friend, Cody Warden

Please consider a donation to Leap-For-A-Cure, the local organization fighting every day to help defeat brain cancer, of which Cody and Darbi were proud advocates.

 

The Chameleon Queen

I present to you the most amazing picture in the history of photography.

Camilla

Let’s just say Camilla was a tad excited to see Miss Nebraska Aleah Peters and to try on her crown.  This was one of my favorite moments from the weekend, when nine of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants joined Aleah for an Omaha Princess Party as part of our #MissAmericaServes campaign.

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So. Much. Sass.  I LOVE IT.

This event raised an estimated $250, money that will be used to create care packages for open heart surgery patients through Abriendo Corazones, a mission founded by a medical team at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  (CLICK HERE to learn more!)  An incredible cause very close to my heart, made even better by seeing the looks in these little girls’ eyes as they got to meet ‘real life princesses’!

Who was your role model growing up?  My husband adored sports icons like Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan.  I was obsessed with celebrities, from the stars of Beverly Hills 90210 to New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.  Children are sponges and find inspiration everywhere, often zoning in on the people and things they are interested in.

A young woman from small-town Nebraska is a chameleon of sorts when it comes to what ‘type’ of woman she is… athlete, graduate student, survivor AND ‘princess’.

Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis

“I wholeheartedly believe that if you are going to do something it is essential to give 110%,” Jessica told me recently.  “I have been involved in athletics my entire life.  I believe that greatness is truly constructed when no one is looking.  It is the work that you put in behind the scenes that pays off in the long run.”

This is Jessica’s first and only year competing in the Miss Nebraska Pageant.  At 24, she’s already filled her resume with accolades from Centura High School, college at both Doane and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and now graduate school in Doane’s Masters program.  Jessica is a multi-sport athlete, qualifying for state competition as a high school student and competing as a collegiate basketball player while completing her undergrad degree.

“Basketball has always been a large part of my life,” said Jessica.  “I recall getting a Little Tikes basketball hoop for my fourth birthday and stomping around the house in my dad’s basketball shoes.  As a little girl I dreamt of being a professional basketball player.  I had the opportunity to play basketball at the youth, junior high, high school, elite and collegiate level.  I have been had the opportunity to coach high school basketball.  Through basketball, I learned the value of perseverance, positivity and teamwork.  As a little girl shooting hoops in my parents’ driveway, I never thought that one day the lessons I learned from basketball would help me overcome one of my greatest obstacles: cancer.”

Jessica describes a frustrating sophomore year of college, a time filled with countless doctors visits and tests.  Her diagnosis: her body is predisposed to form tumors, a condition Jessica says she will face for the rest of her life.

“Without basketball, I’m not sure I would have possessed the mental strength to persevere through the following year,” said Jessica.

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So when crowned Miss Kearney last fall, Jessica decided to combine the two systems that helped her face her diagnosis: basketball and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.  She calls her platform ‘Hoops For Hope: Supporting Children’s Miracle Network.’

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“I am able to coach fundamental camps for today’s youth while raising funds to support an amazing cause,” said Jessica.  “All of the proceeds from the camps directly benefit the children and families at CMNH.”

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When she’s not hosting clinics in cities across Nebraska, Jessica is working on her Master’s degree, preparing to explore PhD programs in psychology. She also has two jobs;  as a mental health technician at Mental Health Crisis Center in Lincoln and as Cinderella, visiting classrooms and children throughout her community.

“I love to smile and laugh,” said Jessica.  “I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. Moreover, I love to make other people smile because life is too short to be anything but happy and if I can be the reason someone smiles then I have done my job as a fellow human being.  My goal is to become Miss Nebraska and hopefully Miss America, to transform my statewide fundraiser into a nationwide fundraiser.  Both of these titles allow the women to reach countless people and make a significant difference in their lives, which is what I aspire to do.  The appearance opportunities also allow young women to gain confidence while promoting a cause that is important to them.  This helps young women grow and give back!”

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“The Miss America Organization is so much more than a beauty pageant,” said Jessica.  “It is a scholarship program that encourages young women to achieve greatness both personally and academically.  I want to encourage young girls to step outside their comfort zone and compete.  I will be forever thankful for this experience.”

Maybe your little girl wants to be a princess, too.  Maybe she wants to be an Olympian.  Maybe she wants to cure cancer.

The thing is.. she doesn’t have to choose.  Little girls can grow up to be women who do it all.

Miss Kearney Jessica Shultis is proof of that.

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“As I have grown up I have discovered who I am and what I want out of life,” said Jessica.  “My experiences have shaped the woman that I am today and I am extremely comfortable with myself.  In a society where media outlets constantly tell women ‘they aren’t good enough’, I believe it is essential to love yourself for who you are.”

***

Click here to follow Miss Kearney 2017 Jessica Shultis on Facebook.

For more information about the Miss Kearney Pageant or for information about becoming a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook. You can also email Directors Megan Goeke and Jenna Lukasiewitz at jenna@hellobeautifulbridal.com or call 308-7-8-0678.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Kearney’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Carsyn Long

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Hope McCoy

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Weathering The Storm

SOOOO earlier this month at work, we were on air, LIVE, as a tornado dropped out of the sky and touched down near Nehawka, Nebraska.

YEAH.  THAT HAPPENED.  CLICK HERE TO SEE FOR YOURSELF!

Bill Randby has been a meteorologist at KETV for 24 years.  I asked him after we ended our coverage.. he’s NEVER had that happen on live TV before.  Pretty astounding, considering the sheer number of storms Bill, and all Nebraska meteorologists and journalists will inevitably cover over the course of our careers.

SUMMER 2004.  HALLAM, NEBRASKA

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Photo courtesy HarkPhoto.com

This photo is so powerful.. yet doesn’t even scratch the surface of the devastation an EF-4 tornado caused this community. KETV photojournalist Bob Gillum and I drove towards the town and all we saw was a line of piles.. piles of wood pieces where a row of houses stood just one day before.  We drove as close to the town as first responders would allow, and someone had spray painted ‘Built Hallam Tough’ on a Ford truck, flipped onto its roof by the twister.  In the nearby town of Clatonia, Nebraska, Bob and I came upon another pile.. someone’s home.. where a couple and their loved ones were going through the pieces to salvage what they could.  When we asked them if we could talk to them on camera, they stood side by side, the husband draping his arm around his wife’s shoulders, to answer our questions.  After a few moments, we heard a whimpering coming from their destroyed home.. and suddenly they both bolted.

“Percy!”

Their dog was still alive, buried under the wreckage of the home.  As the man frantically pulled back boards, his friends and loved ones ran over to help.  Within moments, he scooped up a bloody and battered dog in his arms, and rushed him up a hill to someone’s car.

My guess is that Percy heard his owners’ voices, talking to us just a few feet away from where he had been buried.  I found out later the dog died just days after.  I still remember his name, and still see that row of piles in my mind when I think of Hallam, Nebraska.

The night the twister hit, Hallam native Stacy Pospisil was on stage at a dance recital.  She and her family stayed in a hotel in Crete, unable to get to their home through the flooding that followed the storm.

“It was super scary because my Dad was going to go there that night to have dinner with friends, but ended up deciding to go to my recital instead!”

This was just one of several storms Stacy and her father have faced together, inspiring this young woman to pursue a goal many only dream of.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“The most important thing to me is the relationships I have with my family and friends and I truly do want to help people achieve their own personal goals,” said Stacy, crowned Miss Kearney 2016 last fall.  “With [the Miss Nebraska Pageant], I have learned so much about myself through this journey already.”

When I contacted Stacy this Spring, she told me becoming Miss Nebraska was something she decided to pursue upon graduating from Doane College last May.  Before she even became a local titleholder, she knew what her message would be.

“I am very passionate about my platform, ‘Kiss Cancer Goodbye with Education and Research Funding’, and it is very personal to me because I know how cancer can affect one person so greatly and the ripple effect it can have on the community,” said Stacy.  “My own father had half of his kidney removed due to a cancer scare when I was 14.  Ever since that major surgery, he hasn’t been the same.”

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“I’ve seen how that surgery led to a long road of recovery that also resulted in additional health problems, endless medical bills, and without being able to work has put my family in a financial crisis,” said Stacy.  “I have also seen his self esteem and emotional health also come to near depletion.  This was so hard for me to see because my father has always been my number one fan and most positive and supportive person I [have] ever known.”

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Photo courtesy Russtana Photography

Stacy has shared her campaign and message across social media, with her Doane family, and with her friends.  She tells everyone who will listen about her dad and how badly she wants to kiss-off cancer for good.

“To think that his life might be cut short terrifies me, and that is why I want to spread awareness about how to eliminate cancer by donating to research centers and teach prevention tips to everyone I can in order to lead them to healthy and long lives,” said Stacy.  “I know we can kiss cancer goodbye in every shade of lipstick!”

Sharing her platform, and doing research to make it stronger, has also helped Stacy prepare for her next challenge.. competing to become Miss Nebraska.

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“Wearing a swimsuit (which, by the way, has terrified me for a very long time), has now become my favorite part of the competition,” said Stacy.  “I have learend so much about how to take care of the body that was a gift from God in not only the way I stayed active but also how to give my body the right nutrients it needs with healthy and substantial, nutritious foods.  I have always been passionate about staying active because I have grown up dancing, which is what my talent is, but I never truly understood how much staying active was a part of who I am.”

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Stacy on Facebook: ‘California dreaming… if I ever go missing, follow the sound of the ocean and that’s where I will be dancing my life away…’

“There are so many ways to stay active and there are so many reasons emotionally, mentally and physically to why staying active can benefit everyone,” said Stacy.  “I truly do think I can help people find ways to stay active, appreciate their bodies, and learn to love themselves.  By doing this, it would lead to ways in which we can prevent cancer and I would absolutely love to help people feel more confident in this way.”

Stacy makes appearances every month as Miss Kearney, taking part in the Team Jack Foundation Gala to fight pediatric brain cancer, raising money for Special Olympics, and meeting her fellow titleholders to help the American Heart Association.  Through these events and more, Stacy has confirmed she was destined to be a teacher, but perhaps not in the way this Early Childhood Education major thought.

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“By doing research for my platform I discovered my passion for truly helping people with their health and fitness goals,” said Stacy.  “I have recently started a new job this year at Physicians Weight Loss Center in Lincoln, a position where I can help my dad and also passionately help other people to achieve their goals in order to live their lives in a more happy and healthy way.”

That is the same success Stacy wants to inspire across the state, taking her message of wellness to as many people as possible as Miss Nebraska.

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“I’m here to wake this country up to what is really important,” said Stacy.  “I want to create a ripple effect of helping one another and the first step is to get everyone feeling less helpless in how they view themselves and to build confidence by leading a healthy life again.”

Hallam, Nebraska is back.  Nine years later, homes and businesses have been rebuilt.  They ARE ‘built Hallam tough’.  The same holds true for Stacy and her dad.  With his daughter’s guidance, he’s lost 30 pounds.. and counting.. taking back the health and happiness cancer tried to steal from him.  His biggest cheerleader will take the Miss Nebraska stage in a few short weeks, hoping to help countless others weather their own storms, whatever they may be.

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“People everywhere are looking for answers and something to believe in when diagnosed with major illnesses,” said Stacy.  I want to bring them hope and light in the darknesses that they may be facing. This is what I know I was put in this world to do and it has already been stamped on my heart.”

 ***

Click each link to follow Miss Kearney 2016 Stacy Pospisil

on Facebook and on Instagram

For more information about the Miss Kearney/Miss Tri-Citites Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR WEBSITEFACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Directors Megan Goeke or Jenna Lukasiewitz at hello@beautifulbridal.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Dawes County’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Aubree Noble!

NEXT.. Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Cherokee Purviance!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Talking To The Walls

I had four words listed on the back of my high school letter jacket.

DRAMA CHOIR SPEECH ACADEMICS

I had friends who shook their heads and cried NERD.  They were probably right.. I mean, who does that!?!  But you know what? I was PROUD.. and I’m still proud today.

<Pardon me while I climb onto my high horse.>

I’m a 3-time high school state champion in Nebraska with two individual titles in Persuasive Speaking and a team title for Mock Trial.

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My weekends from October to May were spent like this.. waiting for food with my team at any local Valentino’s or Village Inn we could find after a long day of competition.  We worked for weeks prior fine tuning our speeches, our interpretations of plays and poetry, and our research and knowledge of current events.  I think those days served us pretty well.. the two people in this picture are still my friends almost 20 years later.  Cassie is a respected pharmacist, wife and mom on the east coast, John was my fellow KETV reporter and meteorologist before joining the private sector and raising three boys (one a foster kiddo) with his wife in Texas.  We ALL use public speaking in our jobs, and we are all better in our careers and beyond because of those long days and quick years at speech tournaments. To those who didn’t compete with us,  we were likely just the weirdos they saw talking to walls.  To everyone in our circle, the more you practiced to that audience of brick, the more often you’d see your name on those ‘finals’ lists, and the more trophies you brought home at the end of each weekend.

Times may have changed since my high school years (if you need proof, look at my hair again..) but that unspoken thread connecting speech kids is still strong.  Now though, as I’ve learned from Scottsbluff High School’s Ashlynn Haun, we’re called ‘speechletes’.

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

“I am a Varsity memeber of the SHS Speech team and love every minute of it!’ Ashlynn told me recently.  “It has helped develop my speaking skills and meeting other speechletes is a blast!’

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Ashlynn was a contender and winner at several high school meets this season, making district finals in two separate events.  That alone is impressive, let alone considering Ashlynn was also busy with golf, 4-H, dance and her school’s musical (click here to listen to Ashlynn sing!)

“My family, friends and the members of my community all play important roles in my life,” said Ashlynn.  “My family has always supported me through all of my endeavors.  My friends and community members help each other in so many unknown ways, it truly amazes me.  These people are important to me because they are uplifting and kind, and I hope they view me in the same light.”

That devotion to her community and those in it led Ashlynn to several service projects, often with 4-H Junior Leaders.  She wanted to become more involved and meet more people.. and found the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program.  Ashlynn was crowned Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen last fall.

sister after crowning

“By being involved in the program I have been able to improve my leadership and interview skills,” said Ashlynn.  “The Miss America Organization is a wonderful scholarship program for young women everywhere.  This experience isn’t about winning or losing, it’s about meeting interesting new people and giving back to our communities.”

Ashlynn does that both through philanthropy and emotion.  She often gives back through dance, sharing her gift with audiences as both Miss Gering’s OT and as a teaching assistant at Tabor Dance Academy.

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“I LOVE being on stage!” said Ashlynn.  “Performing gives me such a thrill and has always been fairly easy for me.  I love being able to entertain others while doing something I’m passionate about.”

Ashlynn is also focused on her personal platform, ‘We Are All Survivors’, advocating for cancer survivors and their families.

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Ashlynn on Facebook: ‘Had a blast talking about my platform and participating in the Boxer Rebellion 5K today!😊This great event brings awareness to colon cancer and raises money for Festival of Hope.’

“Almost everyone knows someone affected by cancer in some way, whether it be a family member, a friend, or a friend’s family member,” said Ashlynn.  “My platform is centered around supporting not only the patient, but also those who care for them.  I know personally that seeing someone you love hurt and struggle is terrible.  Often people don’t know how they can help, so I want to spread creative ways that will be most beneficial to these families.”

Here’s a young lady who not only has big ideas, she’s using her words and abilities to bring those visions to life.  She also admires those same traits; when I asked her who her role model is, she didn’t name a celebrity or high-profile stranger.

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“Someone who is a role model for me is my fellow dancer, speechlete and schoolmate Emily Ostdiek,” said Ashlynn.  “She inspires me because she is extremely kind, talented and is always smiling.”

THAT inspires me.

Speech kids RULE.  Speech kids who are also pageant girls are AWESOME.  These women aren’t just talking to walls or waving manicured hands, they are promoting causes and showing everyone around them the power of grace, intelligence and positivity.  Ashlynn Haun wants to represent all of that.. along with her school, her hometown, and speech kids everywhere.

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“I should be Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen because I have pride in my community, county and state,” said Ashlynn.  “I would use my leadership, desire to serve others, and poise to represent them in a very positive light.  I would also take the opportunity to support cancer patients and their families in a more public format to bring awareness to my platform.  I love being part of and promoting the Miss America Organization and would enjoy becoming a bigger part of it.”

***

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashlynn Haun on Facebook.  You can also contact Ashlynn for appearances and events by emailing ashlynnhaun@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, visit THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.  For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Kyla Ansley at 308-631-0938 or by email at kyla_ansley@hotmail.com.  You can also email thirtyone.hayes@yahoo.com.

For more information on becoming a Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at kalinicoletv@gmail.com.

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The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska State Fair 2016 Payton Merritt!

NEXT.. Miss Gering 2016 LaRissa McKean!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

You Think You Have Time

Buddha

I first heard this phrase a few months ago and thought, wow… this is so true. It seems we are always looking ahead and waiting for things to happen; we’ve got vacation circled on the calendar, or are willing the clock to speed up until the weekend begins.  Then, once in a while, we are reminded how quickly time truly flies.

You think you have time.

Here’s an unforgettable reminder of that to all of us from a woman who doesn’t take anything for granted.

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Kayla Hebenstreit and her husband, Joe, should be enjoying this first Christmas with their daughter, Kendall.  Kayla should be in stores, buying every pink tutu and sparkly pair of shoes she can find for that sweet baby girl.  This family should be smiling in every photo they take, just like this one.

Instead, Kayla Hebenstreit spends six days, every two weeks, getting around the clock chemo at the Nebraska Medical Center.  She’s battling cancer FOR THE FOURTH TIME.  One month after her ‘miracle baby’ Kendall was born, doctors told Kayla the cancer was back and she had less than a year to live.

I don’t even know how I would respond to that.  THREE SEPARATE TIMES, Kayla heard the word ‘cancer’, said NO, and beat this terrible disease.  Why, when she and her husband FINALLY got pregnant and had a baby, did this horrible thing, cancer, return?

Click here to watch Kayla’s story with KETV

 The Hebenstreits’ story is one of love and incredible strength.  Every kiss, every laugh means something because they truly know how precious time is.  At a time of year when it’s so easy to get wrapped up in ‘my Christmas cards aren’t done’… ‘how am I going to pay off these holiday bills’… ‘I can’t STAND so-and-so at the Christmas party!’.. this little family will remind you of how lucky so many of us are.

FAMILY 2

Thanks to J Sallenbach Photography for the photo

I believe God has a plan for everything.  I believe God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.  But why, WHY do things like this happen to people like Kayla Hebenstreit?  A beautiful woman, who dug deep to fight back so many times.  All she wants is TIME, time to live life with her husband and love her sweet baby girl, not yet three months old.

I don’t know.

I DO know Kayla and her fight have inspired thousands of people, evidence you can plainly see by checking out her website, Kayla’s Crew, and her Facebook page.  1,700 people packed a recent fundraiser to show this family support and to help them cover their costs.  I hope people who see Kayla’s story will have more appreciation for everything they have, as I did leaving our interview.  Most of all, I pray Kayla and Joe Hebenstreit are given a miracle, the only thing they want for Christmas.  TIME.

Timing Is Everything

As journalists, we meet ALL KINDS of people and cover all kinds of stories.  There are days when we are shaking our heads and pulling our hair out because of the things we hear and see.  We cover some horrible things.. and there are times we start to question people in general.  And then.. you have a week like I just had and your faith is completely restored.. and then some.

Casey march 6

Thanks to Casey Charf for the photo!

I’ve been talking with Casey Charf for the last two weeks or so, first connecting with her just days after she was involved in a terrible car accident near Valley.  Casey and her best friend, Alle, both suffered broken backs and necks.  I interviewed Alle and her cousin, Connor Gourley, about the accident and their message to everyone to wear seat belts.  Casey couldn’t do an interview that day.. and I later found out she was already dealing with something we wouldn’t know about until Monday night.. that doctors, running tests after the crash, found a massive tumor near Casey’s kidney.  Casey’s body had been hiding cancer.

Click here to watch Monday night’s story with Casey

Casey is 18, GORGEOUS, and says she had no symptoms that anything was wrong.  Her cancer is called Malignant Pheochromocytoma, and there are only 1,000-1,500 people in the entire U.S. who have it.  Casey and her family agreed to talk us to and share their story because they were desperate for answers, desperate for support, desperate for Casey’s Cure.

Through a donation website, Casey’s friends and family helped raise $8,000 before our story aired Monday night.  Today, that fund has topped $40,000.

Our newsroom was inundated Tuesday with emails, messages and phone calls from survivors and doctors around the country, hoping they could offer Casey some hope.

Casey herself received messages over Facebook from strangers across the country, just to let her know they were thinking about her.

Click here to watch Tuesday night’s story, following up with Casey

Merely as the reporter sharing Casey’s story and just watching from the outside.. I am BLOWN AWAY by the generosity, caring and support I’ve seen in the last few days.  It is truly incredible.  When I walked in yesterday and opened my email account, I was near tears seeing email.. after email.. after email.. asking how they could help.  There are donors on her website, who gave $5 anonymously.. just to help her family in some way.  The doctor we interviewed Tuesday by phone, one of the nation’s leading experts on Casey’s cancer at the National Institutes of Health, is willing to see Casey immediately.

We’ll follow along with Casey every step of her journey.  Tonight at 10–we’re there as she speaks at her high school graduation, neck brace and all, inspiring even more people.

It’s so cliche.. but I can’t help but think of a quote from Anne Frank: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

Casey’s story is PROOF of that.  There is so much good in people.  Thank you, Omaha and beyond, for sharing that.

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A HUGE thank you to KETV photojournalist Ashley Nodgaard, my ‘other-half’ in sharing Casey’s story!!